Hell on Wheels is taking a little break, but we have a treat to help you through the mini-hiatus. As we saw last week in “Return to Hell,” Ruth, who has been a center of calm in the fray of Hell on Wheels, responded to the loss of her son with grief, fury, and a gun. We were thrilled to speak with Kasha Kropinski this week about Ruth’s transformation, shooting Sidney Snow, and what’s next.
When Kropinski auditioned for Hell on Wheels back in the first season, Ruth was only slated for a few episodes, and three years later, she is, very happily, still here. “Originally my character was only supposed to be a guest star. When I auditioned, the breakdown said the character was to be featured in five episodes in season one,” she recalls. “After season one, I had no idea whether I was coming back. And then I came back for seasons two, three, and four, and every year, it’s an enormous surprise.”
She says shooting on location in Calgary helps inform the time period of the show, and sometimes the weather even gets in on the action. “It feels as if you are living in the 1900s if you disregard the technology. The set is incredibly realistic. You can walk into any room on set and there will be all of the relevant accoutrements,” she points out. “In the railway office, there are ledgers and pencils. It truly feels as if you’re living the lives of these characters. In the first couple of seasons, we did work [indoors] on set. The last couple of seasons, we’ve shot exclusively on location and it makes a difference. Everything feels completely and utterly authentic. You can dive in and immerse yourself.”
During filming of “Return to Hell,” the weather effects ended up onscreen. “When I shot Sidney…the peplum on my blouse, and my hair is blowing, and that literally happened in that one take and it was so perfect,” says Kropinski. “The weather has been a character in the show and contributed to the performances.”
“[In the scene where we bury Ezra], when I put my head on Cullen’s shoulder, the sunset was exploding behind us. That was completely by accident. We had to wait several hours because of a dangerous thunderstorm. We had started the scene and then we had to break and wait in our trailers. [After the storm passed], we had to work extremely quickly because the sun was setting, and that was the last shot we could get. For me, that’s the best part of the episode. It was so gorgeous.”
She wasn’t looped on Ezra’s death, and Ruth’s response, ahead of time, and only found out with everyone else when the cast were given their scripts for the episode. “We usually receive the script the first day of the current episode, so a week before. Prior to receiving the script, thoughts were starting to swell in my head about the Sidney and Ruth storyline because there were some hints of danger. I read it and I was not expecting Ruth to shoot him,” she says.
“Obviously, the most shocking and horrific aspect was Ezra’s death and my stomach dropped when I read that. It was a literal shock to read that. It’s such a tragic, devastating, horrible episode, and emotionally draining, but when I read it, I felt so inspired and invigorated and I couldn’t wait to start filming. Especially because Billy Gierhart (who has directed The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy) was our director. I adore him. He’s phenomenal, brilliant, fantastic, genius. When I saw his name on the script, I knew I was in good hands.”
The shooting scene required Kropinski to learn to handle a gun comfortably, and although it didn’t make the final cut of the episode, she says they did do a take of her actually pulling the trigger. “Filming that episode was incredibly exhilarating. When we shot it, it took all day. We only got to the reveal at the end of the day. I’d done it so many way, and so many different angles, and the technical details of Jonathan [Scarfe]’s squibs…it was a very laborious and deliberate process,” she recalls.
“When we got to my coverage, I was so revved up, and it sort of culminated and I felt suspended in time. It was such an intense, visceral, and astonishing sensation. I don’t know where it came from. Everything felt electric and alive. So far [in the history of the show], that scene was pretty special to film.”
Kropinski says the lack of physicality between Bohannon and Ruth wasn’t intentional, and wasn’t scripted, but she took notice when she watched the episode. “We didn’t actually talk about that at all. Watching the episode, it’s so interesting to me the things that didn’t occur to me [during filming] that appear quite evidently onscreen. When I was watching, I [realized] he doesn’t extend himself that way and he doesn’t reassure her through physicality. He attempts to reassure her emotionally and psychologically, [but] he doesn’t step into that territory or cross that boundary,” she says.
“We’ll see [more of their relationship] and that growth and progress and development in the upcoming episodes in terms of how Cullen sees Ruth,” she promises. “[Because] Ruth grew up [sheltered] and…was somewhat poisoned by the influence of her [violent] brothers and her violent father…she’s had to develop a sturdiness, resolve, and strength, so she doesn’t necessarily rely on other people to comfort her or help her because she realized in her life nobody is going to do that for you except yourself.”
“When this tragedy befalls Ruth and she literally has nothing left, she doesn’t expect Cullen’s comfort. I don’t think it occurs to her that he doesn’t offer himself to her. It’s not part of the equation. I don’t think she even thinks she deserves comfort. She takes responsibility for the death of her child. But watching the episode, [the fact that they do not touch] is so obvious.”
Speaking of Ruth’s violent father, Kropinski loved working with Tom Noonan, who played the Reverend. “He’s an alien in the best sense of the word. Ever since he left, I’ve been telling them, ‘Can’t he haunt the town? We need a village ghost,'” she laughs. “That was just an extraordinary privilege to work with him and learn from him and witness his astounding beauty and be able to do scenes with him.”
Kropinski is excited about the rest of this season, and the arc that started with “Return to Hell.” “[These episodes] have been the most fulfilling. Ruth has something to do. She’s always been a bit of a bystander, an observer, the meek little church mouse, and now she’s come roaring forward with this incredibly decisive action and I don’t think anybody expected that,” she says. “In the upcoming episodes, we will learn a great deal about Ruth and we will plumb the depths of who she is. “You basically see her bare bones, and we get down to her core.”
We’re ready, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks. Hell on Wheels returns to AMC on Saturday, November 8th. You can catch full episodes of season four, including “Return to Hell,” on AMC’s website.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Catching Up with Ted Lasso and Previewing Season 2
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] The not so dirty little secret about how I approach a new series is that I sometimes make a call based on the headspace I’m in at the time. It’s been a minute since I’ve picked up a show after the first season and then binge…
Interview: Henri Esteve on Grown-ish Season 3
An interview with Henri Esteve, who plays Javi on Freeform’s Grown-ish. He talks about his season three experience.
For All Mankind Season 2: Talking with Wrenn Schmidt, Krys Marshall, Jodi Balfour, and Sonya Walger [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the hooks of For All Mankind is that it’s very much a story about the women of NASA. In Season 2, we explore the journeys of the women in the program, either through their own service or through their family affiliations. Four of those…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Season Finale [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale episodes.] How’s everyone after that finale? I will freely admit I got a little misty in episode eight as John told Sara why he loved her, and later that he wanted her despite what he might forfeit, and then at the end when he…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness [Exclusive]
Hands down, one of the best surprises of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness is that the serial killer this season has been front and center alongside the cast as a fully-formed character. We’ve watched Libby Hatch devolve from a prim, mild-mannered nurse to a woman in a rage hell-bent on…
The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Relationship Recap: John and Sara
[Warning: Spoilers for “Belly of the Beast” and “Memento Mori”] If you’ve read me for a while (thank you!), you know two things — I lean way, way in on the characters I adore and I loathe love geometry arcs. So, I’m torn about where we are and where we…
Louriza Tronco Talks The Order Season 2 [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Season 2.] The Order’s second season is dark yet delightful entertainment on many levels, and one of its biggest sources of joy and snark is the sassy Gabrielle Dupres. Last season, she was assertive and deadly and fairly annoyed with the world. This season, she’s been…
Previewing Netflix’s Virgin River
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] Full disclosure: I have a Netflix account for my Mom, but I’m not a regular viewer. If I get a heads up on something, I’ll go look for it, but I don’t have a wander across its offerings, which, as I understand it, is how most…
Final Thoughts From the Killjoys Team [Exclusive]
This is the day of the week I’d normally hit you up with a Killjoys preview, but now that we’ve put the series to bed and released Team Awesome Force into the wild, I have one more treat for you–some final thoughts excerpted from my conversations with the Killjoys folks….
Michelle Lovretta Talks Wrapping Up Killjoys [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the series finale.] To quote Miss Jackson, “That’s the end?” Yes, friends, it is. And like I promised you, everything would be, was, and is alright. I went to the Killjoys source, series creator Michelle Lovretta, who wrote the last episode, to break down that delicious finale….
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…